Tuesday, September 11, 2018

No seat, go preach

Wilson Thompson (1788-1866) relates his first preaching experience, while struggling with the subject of a call to the ministry. This is excerpted from pages 107-113 of The Autobiography of Elder Wilson Thompson, His Life, Travels, and Ministerial Labors.

In September [of 1810] I went to the North Bend
Association, held that year at Flower Creek Church, not far from the forks of Licking River. I had heard Elder John Taylor preach some years before on the subject of the call to the ministry and I now felt a great desire to hear that subject discussed again, that I might know whether I was called of God or not; for I was still tried with doubts…I felt resolved, however, that if I was called on I would not attempt it; for the very thought of rising to speak before all those great preachers would almost make me shudder. I went to the meeting but kept still, and took no part in the conversation. I kept a back seat and thought I was safe; still if any of them looked at me, as if noticing me, I felt alarmed. I really suffered from a dread lest I should be found out, and be called upon to speak before those great preachers. The afternoon was spent in conversation, for many of the old ministers and brethren from different Associations, from Elkhorn, Bracken, Long Run, and North Bend were there. It was Elder Taylor’s appointment that evening, at the house of a brother Ashbrook, near Licking River. Taylor being like a father among them, and being old, and having the reputation of being a very great preacher, the people gathered there to hear him. Scott, of Long Run, a large, stern-looking Irishman from below the mouth of the Kentucky River, and Anderson from Bracken, and many others, were there.

During the evening’s conversation I occupied a silent and retired position. Finally, nightfall began to close in; the house became crowded to overflowing: the doorway and even the yard was thronged. I took a seat near the door, for the convenience of those outside; the table for the preacher was set near me. Brother Ashbrook remarked to Brother Taylor that the house and yard were full of waiting people, and that it was time to begin worship. He arose from his seat near the fireplace, and with a searching glance surveyed the assembly for a minute, and then asked: “Is young Brother Thompson in the room?”' I drooped my head very low, and was seized with a violent shaking, from head to foot. I heard several voices near me saying: “He is here.” I heard footsteps approaching me, and directly the hand of Taylor was laid upon my shoulder. I raised my head, he said, “Go and preach.” I replied, “I have no appointment here, and I can not fill yours.” He said, “Children, obey your parents in all things.” I replied, “I do not think that command applies to this case.” He continued by saying, “I am an old man, and you are a young one. I want a seat, and good manners alone would require you to give me yours.” I began to try to give him room by shifting to one side, but the seat was too closely filled. He said, “You can not make room that way, and an old man must stand unless you will give him your seat.” I resolved to rise and go out the door. As I arose from my seat he slipped into it, and said, “Go and preach.” I found the door so completely closed up with people that I could not get out. I was near the candle and every eye was fixed upon me. What to do I could not tell. Taylor had his head down, and he seemed to pay no attention to me.

I concluded to open meeting by singing and prayer, and then give place. I took up a Rippon’s hymn-book, and opened to the hymn, “Ye little flock whom Jesus feeds,” etc. I was trembling so much I could scarcely hold the book or candle still enough to see; nor could I scarcely speak so as to be understood. The hymn, however, being somewhat familiar to me, I made out to get through it. While singing this hymn the text, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Fathers good pleasure to give you the kingdom,” came with such force and light on my mind that, by the time prayer was concluded, I felt impressed to say something on that text. I read it and began, still trembling…I will say that this course of Elder Taylor in putting me forward that night was a severe trial to me—a trial I thought too severe; but still I do believe that it did more to destroy that man-fearing or at least preacher-fearing embarrassment, that had so sorely afflicted me, than anything I had before met with; for I never felt much of it afterward. Still it was so severe I never could take this course with any of my young brethren.

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